Detroit Lions deliver game-winning game ball dedicated to city after Oxford high school shooting

OXFORD, Mich. — A special delivery arrived at Oxford High School Thursday morning as longtime former Detroit Lions vice president of communications Bill Keenist met with Oxford athletic director Tony DeMare, in his office to give him a brown box as a gift from the team. .

Inside was the official match ball from the Lions’ emotional first victory of the 2021 season, which Detroit coach Dan Campbell promised would go “out to the entire Oxford community”.

“Any time people stick with their commitment, it shows authenticity. It shows they’re authentic,” DeMare said after receiving the ball. “It only increases your respect for these people.”

The Lions dedicated their first victory of the 2021 season, against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 5, to the community of Oxford, Michigan, after a shooting at Oxford High School on Nov. 30 left four dead and several other injured. The Lions paid for the game ball to be commemoratively painted with the final score, date and location before shipping it to Keenist, who is a long-time resident of Oxford.

“11/30 has a different meaning in Oxford now. It’s not the time to go to bed or get ready for lunch. These numbers will never be forgotten for the honor of everyone involved”, said Keenist. “Football will forever remain as another symbol of that.”

The game ball will begin to be displayed in high school, where students can celebrate it first. The balloon will then be shared with several organizations in the community, such as first responders, fire stations, police stations, Oakland County sheriffs, banks and restaurants.

DeMare plans to put the ball in a display case before passing it on to others who can keep it for up to a week.

“Just think about it, it’s a football in a briefcase, but it symbolizes the unity of people at Oxford,” DeMare said.

Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown caught the game-winning touchdown like quarterback Jared Goff in that upset against the Vikings. He described the win as his most memorable game, not just because it was his first career touchdown, but because the team rallied after the shot. Lions members honored the victims with t-shirts, hats and a helmet sticker. They also observed a minute of silence before kick-off.

“I hope it represents for them to never give up and fight because I feel like with this shooting, I feel like maybe a lot of students could get desperate or lose their motivation,” St. Brown told ESPN. “For us, this game would literally describe what they’re going through. We were [0-10-1] and found a way to win. A lot of people thought we weren’t going to win all season, so we found a way to win at the end, and to me that was a message for them to never give up.

“It’s always hope, even in the worst of times,” he added. “There’s always something to look forward to. You just have to keep pushing, keep working, so I think it was just perfect how it all went down with Coach Campbell giving them that ball. I hope this gives them motivation to move forward.”

Charles P. Patton